I haven't posted a new blog article in quite some time. Partly because having two children (2 year old and 5 month old), keeps me very busy! I also feel that I have covered most dog training related topics via blog articles. However, my situation with my own dogs has inspired me to create a new post. How do you know when to re-home a dog and how do you make sure it all turns out for all the parties involved?
Some of you may know the saga of Lex and Lucy and how drastically their lives changed when I had kids. A year ago when my daughter started crawling, Lucy made herself physically sick due to the stress. Border Collies are known for having space issues; they don't like their space invaded by dogs or people. Having the constraints of being a good dog and not being able to "correct" the baby, Lucy internalized it all. I temporarily relocated her to my dad's house. I visited her there (as he lives only 15 minutes away) and "dog-napped" her from time to time. After I had my son, I brought Lucy home for a while and she never left! I can only guess why she is alright now with the kids. Perhaps since my daughter is now two and gives her the space she needs, Lucy no longer feels stressed. Perhaps Lucy decided she would rather be home with me and kids all day than be alone at my dad's while he worked all day. Either way, she is a changed dog. She eats her food, she plays, and loves on both kids.
While Lucy was gone on her "vacation," Lex remained normal until my daughter went from crawling to walking to running. Suddenly she was quick and unpredictable in her movement. We worked very hard to teach Lex to go to a quiet place when he was stressed and tried to give him more exercise and attention as well as teach our daughter to leave him be. While we were successful, things changed after my son was born. I could no longer exercise him daily as my hands were full with two little ones. We didn't have any "alone" time without kids and Lex began to spend most of his time in his quiet place. As my daughter became fascinated with role playing and taking care of baby dolls etc, she began to dote on Lex by insisting she feed him his dog food, bringing him treats, attempting to share her tippy cup with him. He was NOT comfortable with this and began to show very clear warning signals to her (showing his teeth). No matter how many times I talked to her about dog's having sharp teeth and showing her pictures of snarling dogs and even giving her time-outs when she disobeyed me and tried once again to get Lex to lick her or play with her doll, she just didn't understand the magnitude of the situation. How could she? She was 23 months old!
My husband and I began talking about our fear that we didn't know how long Lex's "fuse" was before he would go from warning to biting. Lex has corrected many puppies in his life and doesn't have the most inhibited bite (as he made some of them bleed). This lack of bite inhibition scared me and even though I was managing the situation I knew something had to change. I kept thinking how sad it was that he slept away most of his days, rarely seemed happy anymore and the fear I had that he would lash out at my daughter. It is a horrible feeling to love two creatures that can't co-exist together under your current circumstances.
Luckily for me I had/have a dear friend, although 500 miles away in Oregon, that had offered time and time again to take Lex for a vacation or for good. This friend however, was about to purchase a puppy, meaning my window for her taking Lex would close forever.
My husband and I talked about it for a while and finally decided that even though we love our dog, we love our children more and that everyone would be happier if we re-homed Lex to my friend.
A week later my friend and her husband made the long trek to come get Lex. He was a little stressed at first, but took the long ride in stride. My friend tells me that he slept on their bed the first night, and still does 3 weeks later! He plays with their Border Collie, goes to their horse barn daily to take care of the horses, goes to work with my friend (as she is a groomer) and he started playing flyball again! She can leave him un-crated in their house and he chills on the couch till she gets home. He chows his food down and barks for more. She sends me pictures and texts of what he is up to and I see more pictures on facebook each week. My heart is so happy for him!
Our home is much happier as well. I didn't realize how much responsibility it was each day to make sure nothing bad happened to my toddler in reference to Lex. Lucy doesn't seemed phased that he left and is enjoying going everywhere with us. Now that she is a senior dog and slowed down, it is not a burden to take her to the park with the kids or have her with us at a family member's house. I could never take Lex to a kid's park and taking him to a family member's house was never too much fun either as some of the dogs in my family never got along well with him.
Sometimes everything lines up and re-homing a dog is the wisest choice for a family. I know there are some people that hold onto dogs till the end of the dog's life (no matter what the conditions or circumstances) because they feel that they made a commitment to the dog for life. I am a believer that if someone can give your dog a better life than you can, you are not a failure for making the difficult choice to re-home the dog.